Leaders must do more to bridge the divide between cops and the communities they serve, and encourage young people to join law enforcement, FBI Director James Comey said during a conference Sunday.
Speaking before the International Association of Chiefs of Police at the San Diego Convention Center, Comey said that given recent publicity and anger over multiple officer-involved shootings across the country, “this is a uniquely difficult time in American law enforcement.”
Police officers are “standing where unpredictable currents meet” — and that includes the news media and communities that feel unfairly treated, Comey said. “There is a need for leadership in the middle of those riptides,” he said.
Real leaders “know what good policing looks like: fair, lawful and transparent,” Comey said, adding that good policing involves kindness, toughness, decency and humility.
Because of attention traditional or social media has brought to police-involved shootings in places including El Cajon, Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri, “decent, caring people believe with all their hearts that American law enforcement is using deadly force against black people at epidemic levels,” Comey said.
However, he also said a recent Harvard study of 10 major police departments showed lethal force was more likely to be used against white people, while non-lethal force was more likely to be used against black people.
“Is deadly force use trending up or down? We simply don’t know, as a country we have not bothered to collect the information,” Comey said. “In absence of that, we have anecdotes, we have videos.”
Comey said African-Americans also want good policing, because they know that leads to prosperity and better communities.
Those who violate their oath should be rooted out, but the vast majority of those who wear a badge are good and decent people, Comey said, “who choose lives of service over self. They want to stop bad guys, help old people off the floor and stop young girls from being on the street.”
Comey said that when speaking to young people, he asks them to close their eyes and imagine themselves at the end of their lives: “Ask one question: Who do I want to have been? You want to have been people to use what you had to help others. Only in a life like that is there real value and real wealth.”
The IACP gathering is being held through Tuesday.
— City News Service
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